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Budget & Finance

State Spending on School Buildings Down Sharply Since Great Recession

By Evie Blad — August 30, 2019 2 min read

States’ spending to build, upgrade, and equip school buildings has fallen over the last decade, exacerbating budget challenges many schools already face, an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds.

Thirty-eight states cut school capital spending as a share of their overall economy between 2008 and 2017, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“As a share of the economy, state capital funding for schools— for example, to build new schools, renovate and expand facilities, and install more-modern technologies—was still down 31 percent in fiscal year 2017 compared to 2008, when the Great Recession took hold,” Michael Leachman, senior director of state fiscal research at the progressive think tank, wrote in a blog post. “That’s the equivalent of a $20 billion cut.”

At the same time, spending on K-12 education in general continues to lag in many states, Leachman said, creating additional challenges for schools struggling to keep up with changing academics and facilities needs.

The analysis comes as national debates put a spotlight on school resources. The majority of spending on school facilities comes from local sources, like property taxes, but some lawmakers and educational administrators have pushed for expanded funding from other sources.

President Donald Trump has discussed a broad infrastructure plan to overhaul the nation’s bridges, roads, and railways. And groups like,the [Re] Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition, or BASIC, have pushed for lawmakers to include school facilities in any plan they eventually greenlight. (The coalition wants $100 billion over the next decade to be set aside for schools, Education Week’s Denisa Superville wrote last year.)

Several Democratic presidential candidates have proposed including schools in their infrastructure plans, and some have proposed dramatic expansions of federal support for education in general. For example, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden both want to triple Title I funding, which is designed to help schools with high enrollments of students from low-income families.

To learn more about the challenges districts face with school buildings, read Education Week’s 2017 special report: The “The New Schoolhouse: Planning, Funding, and Building Facilities That Work”.

Photo: Getty


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